All posts by GalacticJourney

[Oct. 20, 1962] Yes, please! (The first James Bond movie, Dr. No)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

With the days drawing in, marking the beginning of Autumn, and the evenings becoming longer, I know I look forward to going to the cinema more.  I was very fortunate to be able to get a ticket to the premier of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, which was shown at the London Pavilion, and therefore I saw it three days before its general release to the rest of the country.

There was quite a buzz surrounding this film, but before I go into my piece let me give you some context to the books behind the movie: Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

It may be confusing to some Fleming fans to see Dr. No presented as the first James Bond film, because the title and plot are from the sixth book.  So six is number one, but chronologically the first James Bond novel was Casino Royale, which came out in 1953.  I understand that Casino Royale was adapted as an episode of an American television called Climax! (which sounds rather racy to my ears) and that the rights to the name of the first James Bond book are therefore tied up.

Anyway, in Britain, Ian Fleming’s books have always sold well, and Fleming may rightfully be described as the inventor of the Cold War spy thriller genre, which while set in the mundane world has themes that require elements of science and technology for the plots to work.

Up to now Fleming hasn’t taken American by storm, but I think that will change when Dr. No is released in America next year.  It will not probably hurt that President John F. Kennedy has been quoted as saying that Fleming’s fifth James Bond novel, From Russia, with Love, was one of his top ten all time favourite books.

Given that the title of the next James Bond movie is From Russia, with Love, I fully expect American audiences to take to reading James Bond as readers over here have.  Last year, the ninth book in the series, Thunderball, featuring the capture of a NATO fighter, sold out of its initial print run of 50,938 hardbacks and has had to be reprinted to meet demand.  Reviews have said it is the best since Diamonds Are Forever, the fourth book in the James Bond series.

To say Ian Fleming is prolific is I think over-egging it a bit, but he can certainly write, and his writing improves with each book.  I have watched Fleming adding depth and character, to what would otherwise be a cipher who only served the whims of the author.  Fleming has made James Bond more than that.  He’s the man every man aspires to be, and the bad boy that every woman wants to be chased by.

And here I am, and I haven’t even started to tell you all how wonderful Dr. No is.  A caveat though, it’s not a direct translation of the novel to film.  For a start it has a scene near the very beginning that introduces our titular hero with the quote, “My name is Bond, James Bond,” which I’m pretty sure is lifted wholesale from Casino Royale.  Other small changes have been made to the story too, but these do not detract form the central thrust of the plot, the machinations of Dr. No who wants to sabotage the American space race.

A very timely plot, apposite even, given the setbacks that NASA have suffered over recent years.

The film has a very stylish opening sequence that culminates in a stunning shot down the barrel of a gun that shows James Bond turning to fire at his assailant before they can fire.  This is followed by a quirky fade to the tune of Three Blind Mice that leads to the opening that sets up the action when three apparently blind men assassinate the British MI6 Station Chief in Jamaica.  Then we cut to Britain and the introduction of our hero, played by Sean Connery.  It’s all very suave and sophisticate, in keeping with Fleming himself, and the way he writes about things.

Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate, and we are introduced to M, the head of MI6, and Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary.  For fans of James Bond this just feels so right, and M ordering Bond to stop using his Beretta in favour of a Walther PPK (first issued to Bond in the book, Dr. No) sets the tone perfectly.  When Bond arrives in Jamaica, things go from bad to worse with the first of several attempts on his life that don’t end well for his would be assailants.  Warning, the spider scene is also not for the squeamish.  Fortunately, I find spiders to be nice creatures, but some of the audience gasped in shock when it crawled across the screen.

From there the mystery develops and ultimately leads to Dr. No’s secret lair, where the fellow is using a nuclear reactor to power a transmitter that can jam US missiles and cause them to crash.  All very exciting, and I’m avoiding giving away too many spoilers here, because I feel that people should be allowed to experience a story for themselves.

There’s enough differences between the novel and the film to make both distinct, with each enhancing the enjoyment of the other format.  So, the North American premiere is set for the 8th of May next year, and I can really recommend going to see this film.  I know I enjoyed it, and I imagine you all will too.

And while I am on the subject of cutting edge technology…

When you think of aircraft flying mostly straight up and down, helicopters (or if you’re old enough, autogyros) come to mind.  But the so-called whirlybirds now have stiff competition.

This year, the Farnborough Air Show showcased the amazing XP831 Royal Airforce prototype Vertical Take-Off and Landing jet (VTOL).  The Hawker P1127 is the result of nearly ten years of engineering development.

The idea of a winged aircraft that could take-off and land vertically goes back even further to the dark days of World War Two, but it wasn’t until 1955 that Rolls-Royce produced a test bed for vertical flight.  It became known as the Flying Bedstead.  It was difficult to fly, ungainly to look at, and had a propensity to crash, killing two test pilots in the process.

Not an auspicious start, but Dr. Alan A. Griffiths, a pioneer of British jet technology came up with the idea of a liftjet, which was small engine designed to specifically provide thrust to all the aircraft to take-off vertically.  This led to the Shorts SC-1, which first flew in 1957.  However, having five engine in an aeroplane where four of them only provided thrust during take-off meant that while useful data could be extracted from the flights, it wasn’t in and of itself a practical prototype aircraft.

Enter the Hawker P1127 using a Rolls Royce Pegasus jet engine, a marvel of British engineering that has nozzles that divert the thrust from the engine to allow vertical take-off using only one engine.  Furthermore, Hawker are also working on developing a larger P1154, which will be able to go supersonic.

I can only imagine how exciting it would be for one of these stunning aircraft to make a debut in a spy thriller.  Perhaps in a few years, when VTOL jets have become commonplace enough to pass into private ownership, we’ll see one featured in a James Bond movie… perhaps Thunderball?




[Oct. 17, 1962] It’s Always Darkest… (The November 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Ah F&SF.  What happened to one of my very favorite mags?  That’s a rhetorical question; Avram Davidson happened.  The new editor has doubled down on the magazine’s predilection for whimsical fantasy with disastrous (to me) results.  Not only that, but it’s even featuring fewer woman authors now than Amazing, of all mags.  I am shaking my head, wishing this was all some Halloween-inspired nightmare.  But no.  Here it is in black and white with a forty cent price tag.  Come check out this month’s issue…but don’t say I didn’t warn you:

The Secret Flight of the Friendship Eleven, by Alfred Connable

We all know astronauts are lantern-jawed, steely eyed, terse test-pilots.  Great for getting the job done, not so great for poetic inspiration.  Eleven is the tale of a corps of artistic types selected specifically so as to describe their journeys in more approachable terms.  But space has the last laugh.

Every so often, a brand new author knocks one out of the park on the first at bat.  This is not one of those cases.  For satire to work, it has to be clever, and this is just mundanely droll.  One star.

Sorworth Place, by Russell Kirk

It’s October, so ghost stories are thoroughly appropriate.  This one, however, set in a battered Scottish castle, is neither original nor particularly engaging.  Two stars.

Card Sharp, by Walter H. Kerr

I really have no idea what Kerr’s poem is about.  Even Davidson’s explanation is no help.  One star.

Hop-Friend, by Terry Carr

Thus begins about twenty pages of relative quality, an island of the old F&SF in a sea of lousiness.  Newish author Carr finds his feet with this sensitive and striking tale of first contact between Human and Martian.  Introverts can never fathom extroverts, and similarly, xenophobes find xenophiles, well, alien!  But extroverted xenophiles, even from different species, are birds of a feather.  Four stars (even if Carr’s Mars conforms more to older theories of the Red Planet’s atmosphere).

Pre-Fixing it Up, by Isaac Asimov

How many rods in a furlong?  How many grains in a pennyweight?  I have no idea…and with the metric system, it doesn’t matter.  The Good Doctor explains the ins, outs, and many merits of the new standard that lets you measure everything from an atom to a universe with a series of easily manipulated units.  Four stars.

Landscape With Sphinxes, by Karen Anderson

Back into the sea with a Sphinx-themed riddle: What earns four stars at its prime, two stars when it doesn’t try, and three stars most of the time?  The Anderson family of writers.  No matter how good an author one is, it takes more than a promising beginning to make a story.  Two stars for this third of a vignette.

Protect Me from My Friends, by John Brunner

There is a fine line between innovation and illegibility.  I read Brunner’s first person account of an overwhelmed telepath twice (it’s short), and I still don’t like it.  Two stars.

You Have to Know the Tune, by Reginald Bretnor

Another half tale from the fellow we know better as Grendel Briarton (of Feghoot “fame” — and that entry is truly bad this month).  Industrialist on the way to Africa hears a tale of the pied bassoonist of the veldt only to find it’s likely no legend.  Trivial.  Two stars.

The Journey of Joenes (Part 2 of 2), by Robert Sheckley

As any of my readers knows, no greater fan of Robert Sheckley walks the Earth.  His short stories are funny, thought-provoking, chilling, clever — by turns or all at once.  In the last decade, he wrote enough to fill six excellent collections, none of which will ever leave my library.

Where he falters is novels.  Somehow, Sheckley can’t keep the pace for 150 consecutive pages, and the result is, while never bad, never terrific.  Cases in point: Time Killer and The Status Civilization.  Bob seems to be cognizant of this weakness.  In his latest book, The Journey of Joenes he attempts to overcome it by writing a novel composed of short, somewhat independent narratives.  The result is something that is, to my mind, no more successful than his previous book-length works.  You may, of course, disagree.

Joenes is a pure satire, putatively written in a post-apocalyptic 30th Century Polynesian.  It details the life of Joenes, an American-born Tahitian power engineer, who is one of the few to survive the worldwide cataclysm.  The tale is told by others: Polynesian historians; excerpts from the memoirs of Joenes’ beatnik companion, Lum; edifying tales recorded anonymously. 

There is a plot — Joenes comes to the United States, winds up before a Court on the charge of sedition, is sentenced to a mental hospital for the Criminally Insane, flees to become a professor of Polynesian Cultural Studies, goes into government, and ultimately escapes nuclear anhilation.  This, however, isn’t the point.  Rather, we see our own modern culture through a mirror darkly, distorted not just as a satire of our society, but of legend in general.  The history of the United States is mixed liberally with that of Ancient Greece.  Historical and mythical personages are referenced with equal frequency.  It’s effectively done, essentially doing for 20th Century America what Homer did for 12th Century B.C. Greece.

Joenes is clearly an attempt by the author to make the philosophical treatise for the 1960s, the equivalent of Stranger in a Strange Land or Venus Plus X.  The satire is approachable, even for the layman, and there is some sex in it.  Whether it succeeds wildly like Heinlein’s piece or fizzles like Sturgeon’s, only time will tell. 

I can only speak for myself.  While Sheckley is always readable, I felt that the joke went on too long, particularly in the latter portions.  Perhaps I’m just too close to the subject matter he was aping.  In any event, I give Joenes three stars.  If this kind of thing is your bag, I suspect you’ll rate it more highly.

And that’s that for this month.  More disappointment in 130 pages than I’ve seen in a long time, if ever.  When I do the Galactic Stars next month, I’m certain F&SF won’t be on the list, and that saddens me.  Nevertheless, I hope against hope that this is just a phase, and the once proud digest will someday return to its former glory.  Time will tell…




[October 14, 2017] A SIGN OF LIFE? (the November 1962 Amazing)


by John Boston

Once more, the question: must the middle of the road be the ceiling?  Will this November Amazing present us anything more interesting than the competently readable fare featured in recent issues?  Well, yeah, a little, but it takes a while to get there. 

Left Hand, Right Hand

James H. Schmitz’s lead novelet Left Hand, Right Hand recalls my comment on his last story: “capable, even lively, deployment of material that otherwise would border on cliche.” It’s essentially a POW escape story: nasty aliens have captured the interstellar explorers from Earth, upon which they seem to have designs.  The protagonist is plotting to get away and warn Earth in a drone ship he has been surreptitiously converting under the aliens’ noses, while the people in charge of the Earth expedition seem to be collaborating with their captors.  As the title suggests, there’s actually more than that going on, and the plot is actually pretty clever; the aliens are well developed and the resolution turns on what’s been learned about them.  But ultimately Schmitz is just capably rearranging the usual SF furniture.  Three stars.

Schmitz gives the impression of a formerly part-time writer who has quit his day job and turned full-time.  From 1949 through 1961, he published zero to three stories a year in the SF magazines.  In 1962, he has published eight stories in the SF magazines plus one in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, plus the novel A Tale of Two Clocks.  Maybe the demands of high production have something to do with the routine character of these recent stories.

The Planet of the Double Sun

The other novelet is the “Classic Reprint,” Neil R. Jones’s The Planet of the Double Sun (from the February 1932 issue), the second in the series about Professor Jamieson.  The Prof had himself put into orbit when he died, and was resurrected eons later when the exploring Zoromes—brains in robotic metal bodies—installed him in his own metal body and took him with them.  Now, on a planet with one blue sun and one orange one, they quickly encounter a sinister mystery about the apparent extinction of anything larger than birds, and almost as quickly are threatened with extinction themselves from a menace having everything to do with the suns.  In fact the end of the story seems to be the end for everyone, except that Sam Moskowitz’s introduction says the series extended to 21 stories.  This one is told in a peculiar naive style, plain and simple (except for the occasional long word) to the point where it sometimes reads as if written for those just graduated from See Spot Run, or new immigrants striving to learn English.  It has a certain archaic charm.  Three charitable stars.

World Edge

World Edge by Jack Egan—apparently his first story—is set in a world which seems hallucinatory and soon enough is shown to be just that.  Unfortunately it’s about the least interesting hallucination I’ve encountered, reminiscent of something you might see on the Saturday morning cartoon shows, and the “explanation” is no more interesting.  Two stars, again being charitable.

The Last Days of the Captain

Unusually, this issue has two stories by women.  Kate Wilhelm contributes The Last Days of the Captain, in which a colony planet has to be evacuated because the terrible aliens are coming, but Marilyn Roget has to wait for her husband and son to return from a hunting trip.  The rigid and dutiful Captain Winters stays behind the main party to wait with her as long as possible, then leaves with her on an arduous futuristic-car trip through the wilderness, leaving a vehicle so husband and son can follow if they ever show up.  Various psychological tensions are acted out along the way, but it never adds up to much for me, and the Captain is still standing at the end despite the title.  Three stars, barely, for good writing.

Black and White

Black and White by Marion Zimmer Bradley is something else entirely.  Nuclear war has ended the world as we know it, leaving only two survivors, who live in a New York bar that has miraculously survived—though the bottles didn’t, so they can’t get drunk, and they can’t go barefoot for all the broken glass embedded in the floor.  Problem: he’s a Negro and she is white.  They have agreed that their racial animosity precludes any attempt to continue the species, and in any case he’s hiding a terrible secret: he’s a Catholic priest.  They row over to New Jersey to hunt rabbits, and there they discover that they aren’t the only survivors after all—there’s a white guy, and nothing good comes of it.  The story quickly turns nasty and powerful, most likely fuelled by the revulsion prompted by certain recent events like the attacks on the Freedom Riders.  In any case, it is intense, and it cuts sharply through the haze of the routine that otherwise attends this magazine.  Four stars.

Life Among the Stars, Part IV

Ben Bova has Life Among the Stars, the fourth in what was billed as a four-article series on extraterrestrial life.  It mainly concerns stars, how little we know about whether they have planets, and how hard it is to find out.  He concludes with the declaration that we’ve gotta have faith that there is life and intelligence elsewhere than Earth.  Further: “Those of us who have the faith—scientists and science fictioneers, dreamers and technicians—realize full well that this is the only adventure worthy of a civilized man.” (Emphasis in original.) The only one?  How about making peace, promoting civil rights, curing diseases, and alleviating poverty, for starters?  I think you’ve gotten a little carried away, Mr. Bova.  Nonetheless, three stars for interesting material well presented.

And—what’s that sound?  Oh, it’s the silence left by the departure of Benedict Breadfruit.  Requiescat in pacem, no revenants please.




[October 12, 1962] What beats hate… (Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Lorelei Marcus

It’s a scary time to be alive. The Russians are sending “equipment” to Cuba — equipment such as soldiers and missiles. The Berlin Wall is forcing many Germans to remain trapped under Communism. On a larger scale, overpopulation is slowly overtaking the Earth. In 100 years our world may be nothing more than a depleted husk filled with hungry people, or maybe an empty rock polluted with radiation. If only someone could step in and say ‘time out’, and just make everyone get along.

But, when you think about it, is that really such a good idea?

A new book came out recently, called A Wrinkle in Time. It’s written by Madeleine L’Engle, a new writer on the young adult fiction scene. Wrinkle is about a young misfit teenager named Meg Murray and her adventures across time and space. With the help of three aliens (disguised as a trio of witches), she travels to unimaginable worlds to rescue her father, who has disappeared after experimenting with hyperdimensional travel. One world is a beautiful garden planet populated by flying centaurs. Another is a misty place inhabited by blind, sensitive creatures. And the third, where Meg’s father is imprisoned, is the regimented world of Camazotz ruled by IT, a domineering mind that keeps the population of humanoids running like evil clockwork.  Everywhere, planets are shrouded in the Black Thing, causing strife and hardship, edging them toward the machine-like conformity of Camazotz.  Even Earth is under a dark shadow.

Relying on her innate talents and those of her companions, precocious little brother Charles Wallace and the bright and alluring schoolmate, Calvin, Meg must defeat IT to win back her father.  In the end, it is because of Meg’s stubborn nonconformity, and because of the love she and her companions share for each other, that they are able to rescue Dr. Murray and vanquish, if only in a small battle, the darkness of IT.

Wrinkle dives into the dark problems of conformity, shows the hardships of being a genius, and most of all, highlights the true power of love. The world is a very dark and scary place with lots of problems. Problems that could be fixed easily by getting everyone to do things a certain way. However, Wrinkle‘s message is that it shouldn’t be so simple. Human beings are complex, and we all have differing opinions. These opinions define who we are, our personalities; take that away and we are no more than husks, performing duties like machines.

It is true that differing opinions are also the source of conflict and war, but that is not their only purpose. If our existence is to simply fulfill a task like we’re told, like a computer, then what’s the point to existing at all? Without opinions there is no desire, no discovery, no love. We live to please ourselves and others, and without that there is no point to living.

Seeing the world in this way makes it a little less terrifying. These challenges aren’t supposed to be easy. We’re not supposed to simply conform and give up. There are problems in the world and they come from the choices we have made, but the point is: We can make choices, and we need to value that ability, because it means we are alive. I have hope that we’ll make the right choices. Wrinkle’s author clearly does, too.

Now you didn’t just come here to read an analysis, so here are my personal thoughts on A Wrinkle in Time. I did not read the story conventionally — my father actually read the book to me and my mother in chapters at bedtime. Between his reading and the immersive story, it was truly an amazing experience for me. It was almost as if I was in the story with the characters! I believe this was partly because the main character, Meg, is so relatable in that she is super smart. Most stories for kids and teens right now are action comics, slice of life stories, or simple fantasy novels. Though A Wrinkle in Time could arguably fit into all three of these genres, it’s also something we’ve never seen before. All of the characters are very intelligent, including the children. After seeing so many stories with ‘strong boys’ or ‘beautiful girls’, it is so relieving to see intelligent characters with such depth in a novel aimed at teenagers.

I really love this novel. I love the story, I love the message, I love the settings, I love the characters, and I love the writing! I think my main nitpick would be the fact that Calvin is way too mature for a 14 year old boy. That aside, this novel incorporates many of my values and philosophies. Intelligence, and using one’s intelligence, is an important aspect of the story, mature themes about the world and its problems are displayed in an optimistic light, and love conquers hate in the end. These themes throughout the story are what make it so dear to my heart.

Overall, this is an amazing book that I highly recommend you read. Even if you’ve already read it, reread it again! I think it would be especially good to read when you’re feeling hopeless. In the end, there’s no way to make the world’s problems disappear, but that’s a good thing. The challenges we face every day to better ours and others’ lives are what make life worth living. I give this story a record 5 stars! I believe there is nothing in it that should bring it to anything less than a perfect score. I would love to hear what you all think of A Wrinkle in Time and what you believe the message is too! Feel free to drop a line about your thoughts on it, and as always,

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.




[October 9, 1962] Middlin’ middle sibling (November 1962 IF Science Fiction)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Another month, another load of science fiction digests delivered to my door.  Normally, they arrive staggered over several weeks (the various publishers know not to step on each other’s toes – the field is now pretty uncrowded, so there’s room for everyone to play), but since I was traveling the last week, I’d already accumulated a small pile upon my return.

Top of the month has been devoted to the magazines edited by famous author/agent Fred Pohl, e.g. Galaxy and IF — and starting next year, Worlds of Tomorrow!  The first two alternate every month, and odd months are IF‘s turn.  Thus, enjoy this review of the November 1962 IF Science Fiction, which was a bit of a slog leavened with bright spots:

Podkayne of Mars (Part 1 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

A few years ago, Robert Heinlein wrote A Menace from Earth.  Unlike virtually every other story to date, it starred (in 1st Person, no less) a precocious teen girl, and it was perhaps the first blend of science fiction and romance.  My 11 year-old (the Young Traveler) adored it and asked me if there was any more like it.  Sadly, there wasn’t. 

Until this month. 

Heinlein’s new novel, Podkayne of Mars, is another 1st Person piece from the viewpoint of a brilliant young woman.  Young Podkayne (Poddy) Fries dreams of becoming a spaceship captain, maybe the first to lead an expedition to the stars.  But to realize her dream, she has to get off of the Red Planet, a sort of futuristic Australia colonized by the best and worst of Terra’s children. 

I tore into Podkayne with a gusto that slowly but inevitably waned.  Have you ever engaged in conversation with a promising raconteur only to find, after a few minutes, that her/his increasingly meandering tale doesn’t and won’t have a point?  And now you’re stuck for the long haul.  That’s Podkayne.  Heinlein simply can’t divorce his rambly, screedy persona from his work.  The result is disturbing, as if there is a creepy old man lurking behind Podkayne’s bright young blue eyes. 

The story is interesting enough to keep me reading, and I appreciate the somewhat progressive treatment of women, but this is a tale that would be served best if written by someone else.  Zenna Henderson might make it too moody; I suspect Rosel George Brown would render it perfectly.  Two stars for this installment, with some improvement at the end.

The Real Thing, by Albert Teichner

Value is determined by scarcity.  When the authentic article is easy to be had, and it is the counterfeit that is rare, we can expect the latter to climb in value.  Someday, we may find plastic to be more desirable than the material it emulates; or we may deem robots to be more human than people.  Teichner’s story explores the latter idea as fully as a few pages will allow, and he pulls it off.  Three stars.

The Reluctant Immortals, by David R. Bunch

Bunch, on the other hand, writing of an overcrowded Earth that has become a driver’s nightmare, does a less convincing job.  There’s good artsy weird, and then there’s tedious artsy weird.  Guess which one this is?  Two stars.

The Desert and the Stars, by Keith Laumer

IF has published a tale of Retief, that interstellar ambassador/superagent, every two months for the last year.  I’m glad Laumer will soon take a break from the character.  I won’t say that this particular piece, in which Retief diplomatically foils an attempt by the Aga Kaga to poach the new farming colony of Flamme, is a story too far – but I think we’re getting there.  Retief’s exploits are getting a little too easy, almost self-parodying.  On the other hand, there are some genuinely funny moments in Desert, and the bit where the diplomat communicates solely in proverbs for several pages is a hoot.  Three stars.

The Man Who Flew, by Charles D. Cunningham, Jr.

A murder mystery in which a telepathic detective puzzles out the how and the who of the untimely demise of his client’s wife; an event with which the detective seems to be uncannily familiar.  This is Cunningham’s first work, and it shows.  It tries too hard at too worn a theme.  Two stars, but let’s see how his next one goes.

Too Many Eggs, by Kris Neville

If the fridge you buy is sold at an unexplained deep discount, you may be getting more than you bargained for – especially if the thing dispenses free food!  I don’t know why I liked this piece so much; it’s just well done and unforced.  Four stars.

The Critique of Impure Reason, by Poul Anderson

Few things can ruin a bright mind like the field of modern literature criticism, and when the mind corrupted belongs to a highly advanced robot on whom the future of space exploitation depends, the tragedy is compounded manyfold.  Only the resurrection of a literary genre seemingly impervious to serious analysis is the answer.  Three stars, though the trip down grad school memory lane was a bit painful.

The Dragon-Slayers, by Frank Banta

A tiny, cute vignette of a simple Venusian peasant family with a dragon problem, and the gift from the boss that proves far more valuable than intended.  Three stars.

In all, 2.6 stars.  Once again, IF leaves the impression that it might someday be a great magazine if it ever grows up.  Nevertheless, no issue yet has compelled me to cancel the subscription, and several have made me glad of it.  May Galaxy’s little sister flower into the beauty of the elder and set a good example for the new baby due next January…




[October 7, 1962] …like a Man.  (the surprising true identity of sf author Lee Chaytor)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Victoria Lucas

OK, that’s neat.  Mostly when I look at the covers of science-fiction magazines, I see silly bug-eyed monsters and rocket ships that look like they’re out of early movies, and I don’t know who those men or boys are who wrote those stories or why, but I suspect the stories are for other men or boys.

But now I see “Lee Chaytor’s” name on an sf magazine cover and I feel like giggling — for Lee is no he!  A friend going to San Diego State College sent me word that she’s a lecturer in English, name of Elizabeth Chater, and she is writing science fiction (and advocating that it be taught as literature, of all things!) while she works on her Master’s degree there.

Chater/Chaytor has a story in the May 1958 Fantastic Universe Science Fiction magazine that I happened to see when I was in that dusty bookstore I mentioned last time.  On this visit the cat got down from the desk near the door and accompanied me as I fumbled around, trying to remember where I’d seen it.  Ah, there, with bug-eyed monsters, a flying saucer, and a rocket ship, with an eagle harassing an alien.  And “featuring their BAIT FOR THE TIGER A New Novel by Lee Chaytor.” So I gathered my pennies and, after considering leaving them with the cat since the owner was elsewhere, I found him, showed him the magazine, gave him my handful of change, and walked out reading it.

Wow!  She doesn’t stint on the monsters, but these sound close to human in their description.  Lots of suspense after the story opens with men locked into a corner of a lower floor of the Pentagon, secret government workers affiliated with the FBI.  There is a flying ball of green light, a master race (the aliens) and a subservient one (the aliens again), and what’s left of a town cringing in fear as the aliens take over a piece of Oregon.

Oh, and of course there has to be a buxom blonde (is she blond?), Valentine, 6 feet tall, an exotic dancer with a “magnificent body” who uses a robot snake in her performances, and who is described in florid terms.  The wife of a missing agent, she falls in with a scheme to try to find out if the aliens have her husband.  Other characters include a sad and terse bodyguard for the telepath running the operation, an argumentative type who tries to keep an eye on the telepath; and a domestic agent who makes breakfast and does the dishes, the most sympathetic of the men to me.  The telepath is a little man who knows all and is predictably headstrong and obnoxious.  The men spout British poetry.

Complications enter the plot in the form of a dying agent who heard a human consorting with the aliens, said to be golden and godlike (as well as conceited), nothing like the green monsters on the cover of the magazine.

I don’t know if I like the piece.  It’s a fast-moving story; you want to find out what happens!  But at this pace in a magazine novella, there is no time for character development.  There are no other women in the narrative, and I can’t identify with the one introduced so far, with those full lips and young, lissome beauty one expects to see in a science fiction tale (at least from looking at other covers).  I guess it’s always been the covers that have alienated me and often deterred me out of science fiction books and magazines.  Scantily clad women, bug-eyed monsters, weird-looking space ships and flying saucers: what’s for me to like?  Adventure?  I consider music and poetry and history and art and architecture to be adventure.  I guess that just sounds pompous, but those media constitute my adventurousness.

Oh, well, back to “Lee Chaytor.” Valentine is up to the task.  The suspense continues.  We hear how nasty the aliens are, how ruthless.  Will she survive?  The team of three men and a telepath stays as close to her as possible as she pursues her mission, but they cannot get too close.  Not yet.  At this point, I had the suspicion that Valentine, “Val,” now referred to as a “girl,” would still be a “girl” at the end of the narrative, and might never become a “woman,” even though much of the narrative is through her eyes.

The ending could be considered to be a happy one, less so inside the circle of characters we know.  I won’t tell you what happens because you have a right to see for yourself.  I’ll just say this: Valentine lives and is unhurt, but, as so often happens with women, her interests come last and are hardly considered.  We have instead clichés about male bonding and jealousy. 

I haven’t learned much from this tale about aliens and secret US government departments, but I did learn this: that a woman can write like a man when she chooses — take that as compliment or damn.  But it does make me wonder: how many other woman authors (and English Professors!) lurk behind androgynous pseudonyms?




[October 4, 1962] Get to work!  (The Mercury Flight of Sigma 7)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Five years ago, satellite launches were quarterly events that dominated the front page.  Now, the Air Force is launching a mission every week, and NASA is not far behind.  The United Kingdom and Canada have joined the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in the orbital club, and one can be certain that Japan and France aren’t far behind.  It’s truer than ever that, as I’ve said before, unmanned spaceflight has become routine.

Yesterday, the same thing happened to manned missions.

39 year-old Navy Commander Walter M. “Wally” Schirra blasted off early the morning of October 3, 1962, flew for six orbits, and splashed down safely in the Pacific near Midway Island less than half a day later.  His Sigma 7 capsule was in space twice as long as Glenn and Carpenter’s Mercury ships and, to all accounts, it was a thoroughly uneventful trip.  Aside from the whole nine hours of weightlessness thing.

While the newspapers all picked up the mission, radio and television coverage was decidedly less comprehensive than for prior flights.  Part of it was the lack of drama.  Shepard was the first.  Grissom almost drowned.  Glenn’s mission had the highest stakes, it being our answer to the Soviet Vostok flights, and his capsule ran the risk of burning up on reentry.  For a couple of hours, Carpenter was believed lost at sea.

But the upshot of Schirra’s mission seemed to be that, as the Commander put it, a chimpanzee could have flown it.  The giant Atlas rocket blasted off just 15 minutes late (the delay was due to a radar malfunction at a overseas tracking station), and that was the most remarkable snag.  One of Schirra’s tasks was to make observations of various points of interest on the ground and snap shots with his camera.  Unfortunately, mother nature was not accommodating, clouds obscuring most of Schirra’s targets (further reducing his active scientific role).  The pilot did see Glenn’s “fireflies,” though, which have since been determined to be ice crystals shaken loose from the capsule. 

After Carpenter’s flight, wherein a combination of engine malfunction and pilot exuberance led to Aurora 7 running out of fuel on reentry, Schirra chose to let his capsule drift.  When Sigma 7’s heat shield began to glow on contact with the atmosphere, it still had a tank that was 78% full.  The spaceship landed less than a mile from the carrier recovery fleet, well within view of television cameras on the deck of the U.S.S. Kearsarge (I felt a brief eerie sensation at the thought that almost exactly twenty years ago, American carriers had patrolled these same waters — to do battle with their Japanese counterparts.)

It was, as Schirra termed it, a “textbook flight.”  If you read the Press Kit, you might well have skipped watching the news.  And yet, it is the lack of drama that makes the flight so dramatic.  Now, instead of biting our fingernails, wondering if our rockets will work, our ships will function, our pilots will survive…now we can focus on getting the work of spaceflight done.  We’ve passed the Wright Flyer stage — now we’re ready to put our craft to use.

There will probably be just one more Mercury flight, this one to last a full day.  The pilot has not been chosen for this mission, but it had been broadly hinted that it will be L. Gordon Cooper, the remaining active Mercury astronaut (Donald K. Slayton having been removed from the roster for heart trouble).  After that, we move on to two-man flights aboard the aptly named Gemini.

Whether we beat the Soviets to that stage of the Space Race remains to be seen…




[Oct. 2, 1962] Women of Washington, Unite!  (The Seventh Geek Girl Con in Seattle)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Ah, Geek Girl Con.  Every year, Seattle’s clarion call of intellectual feminine fandom calls us to attend Washington’s signature science fiction/fantasy event.  It is an intimate (but growing) gathering of sff devotees with a fascination for things both creative and technical.

This year, as with last year, the Journey was invited to speak on the last 12 months in fandom, and boy did we have a lot to relate.  From coverage of Marvel Comics’ slew of new superheroes to a report on this year’s Hugo winners, and with a special piece on the woman pioneers of space exploration, our four panelists ensured that our several dozen attendees left educated and excited.

Of course, there was plenty more going on this year, from a burgeoning Huckster Hall to an active costuming scene.  There was a host of interesting panels.  We personally attended one on activism and how our breed of fanaticism can be channeled to make a positive difference in the world.  Sort of a “Fen Forward!” or “Beatniks for a Better world!”  With all the racial strife, economic inequality, strife on the foreign scene, and the increasing specter of Goldwater isolationism and reactionary policy going on, we need all of our wacky team united in the cause of improving society. 

There was also an excellent panel on Black fandom (there are more members than you think!) and the hope for the appearance of a Black comic superhero.  My bet is that, of the two big comics houses, Marvel is the more likely to dare in that direction.  But who knows?

Here, then, is a mini-gallery of some of the dressed-up friends I managed to snap photos of.  My apologies for not having so many this year – it was an awfully busy (but very fun!) time:


The radiant Sarah Kauppila as Snow White…and her lovely mother, Luann, as the Evil Queen


Cruella de Ville from last year’s Disney film, 101 Dalmatians


Erika Rae Heins, a Middle Earth enthusiast


Rosemary, a modern-age Wonder Woman


Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble

That’s it for this year, but it’s almost a certainty we’ll be flying back on Alaska Airlines come next October.  Especially now with their swell Convair 880s, which go a bit faster than the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8.  First time we’ve ever ridden in one!

[AND DON’T MISS LIVE COVERAGE OF WALLY SCHIRRA’S SIGMA 7 MERCURY FLIGHT BEGINNING TONIGHT!]




[September 30, 1962] The Woman Pioneers of Space Exploration

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

The Journey has a tradition of spotlighting the accomplishments of women, both as writers of and characters in science fiction.  From Dr. Martha Dane, the eminent omnilinguist who graces the Journey’s masthead, to the 30+ authors who have been spotlighted in our series on The Second Sex in SFF.

But while the Journey has covered the Space Race in lavish detail, it has devoted little space to the woman scientists and engineers involved behind the scenes.  In part, this is because space travel is a new field.  In part, it’s because science is still a heavily male-dominated arena.  While women have risen to prominence as scientists for centuries, from Émilie du Châtelet to Marie Curie to Grace Hopper, it is only very recently that they have made their way to the top ranks of space science. 

Times have changed, and there is now a vanguard of women leading the charge that will perhaps someday lead to complete parity between the sexes in this, the newest frontier of science.  To a significant degree, this development was spurred by the digital computer, which you’ll see demonstrated in several of the entries in this article, The Woman Pioneers of Space Exploration:

Dr. Nancy Grace Roman, PhD. Astronomy
Chief of Astronomy, NASA Office of Space Science

Tennessee-born Dr. Roman began her professional career as a graduate student at Chicago’s Yerkes University, then the epicenter of astronomical research.  At the time, a full 20% of the students were women, and while there was no explicit discrimination against them, women earned just two thirds the pay of the men.  As department chair Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar unironically observed, “We don’t
discriminate against women.  We can just get them for less.”

That hardly sat well with Dr. Roman, and she went on to the Naval Research Lab in 1955.  She was initially given no assignments; in fact, she was virtually ignored.  It turned out that the rest of NRL’s staff (all men, of course) were prejudiced against women on account of a prior female colleague having been, as they characterized her, “useless.”  Dr. Roman’s competence quickly disabused them of their error in projecting the failings of one person upon an entire gender.

In 1959, Dr. Roman was tapped to lead the space astronomy department at the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), becoming the most senior woman at the agency.  Dr. Roman has since augmented NASA’s optical and ultraviolet astronomy efforts with new high energy and radio astronomy programs, and her fingerprints are and will be on a great many spacecraft, including the Orbiting Astronomical and Orbiting Solar Observatories, the latter of which launched earlier this year. 

Marcia Neugebauer, M.S. Physics
Senior Research Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

Mariner 2 is on its way to Venus, and Neugebauer is one of the principal engineers behind its construction.  A graduate of Cornell and University of Illinois, Marcia came to California to marry her husband, Gerry, an infrared astronomer, taking a job as Research Scientist at JPL.

Her specialty is the solar wind, that stream charged particles issuing from the Sun whose impact on the Earth’s magnetic field is profound.  She was project scientist for Rangers 1 and 2, a pair of sky science flights that, sadly, were unsuccessful.  But Mariner 2, which is an adaptation of the Ranger probe, also carries the plasma analyzer of Neugebauer’s design, and it is now six million miles along on its journey.  Whether the solar wind be found to be a gale or a gentle breeze, that determination will be thanks to Neugebauer’s experiment – and one can bet that she’ll have a hand in many space probes to come.

Dorothy Vaughan, B.A. Mathematics
Computer programmer, Langley Research Center, NASA

It wasn’t long ago that “computer” meant a mathematician, typically female, who solved numerical problems.  Companies, banks, research centers, would have a corps of computers to resolve complicated mathematical issues.  NASA’s precursor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), had several such groups.  One of them was the all Black, segregated West Area Computing Unit at Langley Research Center.

Vaughan joined NACA in 1943.  After the War, she advanced to heading the unit, becoming the first Black manager at NACA.  In 1958, NACA became NASA, and all segregated facilities, including the West Computing office, were abolished.

At the same time, human computing centers were becoming obsolete, now that digital computers like the IBM 7090 were coming into their own.  But someone had to program them.  Computing, even by punch-card, is still considered “women’s work,” as it was when it was by hand.  This, then, represents an opportunity for thousands of mathematically minded women to enter a field that simply didn’t exist a few years ago, a world men are keeping out of by choice: the world of digital computer programming.

Seeing the electronic computer revolution approaching, Vaughan taught herself FORTRAN, a scientific programming language, and then imparted her knowledge to her colleagues such that she and they could join NASA’s new Analysis and Computation Division as coders. Dorothy Vaughan is still there, currently working on programming the Scout, a cheap and reliable solid-fuel booster.

Katherine Johnson, B.S. Mathematics and French
Mathematician, Langley Research Center, NASA

One of Dorothy Vaughan’s staff was mathematician Katherine Johnson.  A West Area computer from 1953, she went on to the Flight Research Division (FRD) after NASA was formed, where she became (and is) deeply involved in the Mercury manned space program.

In 1960, she became the first woman at FRD to receive credit as coauthor of a research report: “Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position,” which lay out the equations for landing an orbital spacecraft.  She also did trajectory analysis for America’s first human spaceflight, the suborbital mission of Alan Shepard.

Having thus developed a strong reputation for accuracy, it is little surprise that, on the eve of John Glenn’s orbital flight, the astronaut specifically requested that Johnson hand-check his trajectory equations – even though they had been calculated by NASA’s most advanced computers.  “If she says they’re good,” Glenn said, “then I’m ready to go.”

They were, and he was. 

Mary Jackson, B.A. Mathematics
Aeronautical Engineer, Langley Research Center, NASA

Mary Jackson is not precisely a space pioneer, as her work is focused chiefly on wind tunnels and testing the aerodynamic properties of aircraft designs.  Nevertheless, she is noteworthy for being possibly the only Black woman aeronautical engineer in her field, and for her remarkable story:

Originally a math teacher with a dual degree in Math and Physical Sciences, she ended up in at Langley’s segregated West Area Computing section in 1951, reporting to Dorothy Vaughan.

Just two years later, she received an offer to work for engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki in the 60,000 horsepower Supersonic Pressure Tunnel.  Jackson took the job and proved herself, earning Czarnecki’s endorsement to take graduate level math and physics classes offered by the University of Virginia. But the classes were held at the segregated, all White, Hampton High School.  Mary had to fight for special permission from the City of Hampton to take the classes.  She succeeded and in 1958, thus became NASA’s first black female engineer.  That same year, she co-authored her first report: “Effects of Nose Angle and Mach Number on Transition on Cones at Supersonic Speeds.”

Susan Finley
Computer Programmer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Like Dorothy Vaughan, Southern California-based Susan Finley started out as a computer.  Actually, she started out as an art student, but she dropped out after her third year.  Applying for a typist job at Convair, creator of the Atlas rocket that boosted Glenn to orbit, she was asked if she liked math.  She did, and so was offered a computing position.

Marriage complicated things logistically, Finley moving with her husband for his job to San Gabriel.  This put her within commuting distance of JPL, which she joined in January 28, 1958 – just three days before America entered the Space Race with Explorer I.  In 1960, her husband went to grad school in Riverside, and Finley had to leave her position again.  She returned to JPL in 1962, but not before, like many women, she had learned FORTRAN.  Finley nimbly transitioned from mechanical calculators to advanced digital computers.

Ironically, Finley’s calculations that determined that this year’s Ranger 3 flight had missed the Moon by 22,000 miles were done by hand – the computer was off-line at the time!

Lauren “Frankie” van der Wal, M.S. Aeronautics
Chief of Biomedicine, Space Technology Laboratories (former)

Six feet tall and tough as nails, Frankie van der Wal was project manager for the first space biological experiment.  Before becoming Chief of Biomedicine at the overwhelmingly stag Los Angeles facility of Space Technology Laboratories’ (STL), she had been a 15 year-old high school graduate, a model, an airplane mechanic, a deputy sheriff, a showgirl, a graduate with a Masters in Aeronautics, and much more. 

In 1958, the Air Force ran a series of suborbital nosecone tests aboard the STL-designed Thor-Able booster, a rocket that had been patched together for the Pioneer Moon missions.  Van der Wal abhorred a vacuum as much as nature, and she proposed using the hollow space of the nosecone to house a mouse-tro-naut.  Packed into the tight space would be various biomedical monitors to track the life-signs of the rodent during its 15 minute, several thousand-mile flight (much like the ones astronauts Shepard and Grissom would later take). 

The experiment worked well, even if the mice had a penchant for biting the folks who strapped them in to their nosecone seats.  The hearts of Van der Wal’s mice acted like little accelerometers, hastening with the blast of the Thor engine.  Sadly, none of the mice could be recovered after splashdown, but at least they proved that animals could survive the rigors of blast-off and reentry.

I understand Frankie has left STL and is recently married.  Nevertheless, she set a high bar with her strong will and ability, inspiring admiring respect (and not a little fear!) in her coworkers.

These, then, are some of the more prominent of the women pioneers of space science.  Their example will inspire a whole generation of woman engineers and researchers into the aeronautical sciences, and someday even into the astronautical corps.  Of course, I haven’t even touched upon the myriad female astronomers who are not involved with NASA or a space program, but whose contributions to science have greatly expanded our understanding of the cosmos.  They’ll be the subject of the next article in this series…so keep tuned to the Journey!




[Sep. 28, 1962] Seduction of the Innocent (special sci-fi fanzine edition)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

My father used to say that the road to drug abuse didn’t start with pot, or smoking, or even alcohol.

“It all begins with milk,” he’d say.

The funnel that leads to a life of science fiction fanaticism is not quite so broad, but there sure are a lot of entry points.  For instance, one can’t read the newspaper without some update on the Space Race or a new drug.  Sci-fi movies, while often terrible, are ubiquitous.  Science fiction novels are starting to take off just as the monthly digests are at their nadir.  Marvel Comics has launched several new sf-related titles.  Conventions are increasing in number.  Yes, the tentacles of fandom are many, indeed.

My introduction was the October 1950 debut of Galaxy magazine.  Sure, I’d read and watched some science fiction before then, but it hadn’t grabbed me consistently.  Galaxy was pure quality in every issue, and I soon bought an addiction…er…subscription.  Well, there were so many other magazines on the shelf next to Galaxy, surely some of them must be good, too, I reasoned.  By 1954, I was regularly also reading Fantasy and Science Fiction, Astounding, Imagination, Fantastic Universe, Satellite, and Beyond.  Let me tell you — keeping up was a chore!  I was almost glad to have the field winnow a bit toward the end of the decade.

In 1958, I began writing this column, and my reading became more disciplined, more with an eye toward providing content to my readers (who numbered about three at the time; thank you, Stephanie, Janice, and Vic).  The trick then was to ensure I had enough material to fill 10-15 articles a month.  Three magazines and the odd space shot weren’t enough to do the trick.  So I started reading the science fiction novels as they hit the newsstands.  Not all of them, mind you, but the ones that looked interesting.  I began going to the cinema with the Young Traveler for all of the sf flicks, good, indifferent, and (too often) bad.  The Twilight Zone debuted in 1959, and that became a regular viewing experience.

There’s nothing a fan likes more than meeting other fans, so of course, attending conventions became a must.  And then I wasn’t just going to conventions; I became a panelist, a sought out guest.  There began to be rumblings that Galactic Journey might be on the ballot for a Best Fanzine Hugo sometime soon, so I broadened my reading material to include other fanzines.

This, then, is my current state…buried under a pile of reading material faced with a daunting publication schedule.  Thank goodness many of the Journey’s readers have become associates, bringing their unique (dare I say, superior) talents to this ever-burgeoning endeavor.

So this month, I’ve got a couple of special treats, which I shall provide largely without comment.  The first is a fanzine revival by Uberfan Al haLevy.  Rhodomagnetic Digest was a stand-out ‘zine for several issues in the early ’50s.  Al revived it this year, and I recently got my hands on the second issue.  Highlights include the converage of the Labor Day “Nonvention,” a sizeable California gathering for the folks who couldn’t make Chicon III; and a comprehensive encyclopedia of Tolkein’s hobbits.  The latter looks to be first in a series, and I’m certain Middle Earth fans will find it useful. 

Present #2 is a science fiction movie magazine, Spacemen .  I hadn’t even been aware of its existence, but a friend left his copy of Issue 5 here last weekend, and I found it interesting enough to share.  It’s a retrospective issue, full of lore going back several decades, the most compelling of which (to me) was the interview with Buster Crabbe about his work portraying Buck Rogers, which he did after his stint as Flash Gordon.  Lots of good pictures and some fascinating advertisements in the magazine’s aft section.

I hope you enjoy these off-the-beaten-path pieces of sf fandom goodness.  And if these be the items that tip you from FIJAGDH (Fandom is Just a G-D Hobby) to FIAWOL (Fandom is a Way of Life)…

…welcome aboard!